Forget about Lijiang if you are looking for off the beaten path places in China. It’s a nice place to read by a creek-side cafe and enjoy some coffee, but if hordes of tourists and tedious man-made attractions are not your thing, check out Wenhai ecolodge.
To get to Wenhai you can either contact Mr. Cun directly to have a guide show you to the ecolodge or you can hike there yourself by following the map below. People in Lijiang probably won’t know about Wenhai, at least they didn’t when I asked them back in 2010, so instead ask a taxi driver to drive you to to Jade Water village Disney Land.
It looked like the Disney Land of Lijiang anyway–lots of man made stuff. When you start heading north towards the trail and away from all the cheesy tourist attractions and the taxi driver tells you there’s nothing out there, just smile and point to the gigantic Yulong Snow Mountain in front of you.
Whether you walk there with a guide (Mr. Cun supplied us with some horses for baggage which was probably not needed), or hike there on your own, I recommend calling ahead to make sure there is a room at the lodge.
There were only a few rooms when I went before and Mr. Cun said the place does fill up sometimes. If it is your first time to go I recommend having a guide.
It is a two to three hour hike through the mountains to get to Wenhai from Disney Land. The scenery is beautiful. The ecolodge is in a small cluster of homes at the western side of the valley. Alternately you could probably camp out under the stars or ask some villagers if you can stay with them (though I have not done this here).
Wenhai is the perfect place for wandering through the hills, star gazing, or sitting and reflecting. The ecolodge costs 120 RMB per night and all three meals are included. Someone will come and cook for you at all three times.
Map of Wenhai and Lijiang area (click the blue markers to read details about each place):